He may be eight months away from being able to sign it, and 20 months before it takes effect, but Connor McDavid’s second contract is already a topic of conversation in the hockey world.
Despite being only 19-years-old and 55 games into his NHL career, McDavid is already a top-five player in the NHL. Of course, he’s scored 60 points in those 55 games, and is currently sitting tied for second in NHL scoring. He’s also the youngest captain in NHL history and the unquestioned face of the Oilers franchise.
McDavid is currently in the second year of his three-year entry-level contract. Including bonuses, McDavid can make $3.775MM per season. He’s eligible to negotiate and sign a contract extension on July 1, 2017. The longest term possible is eight years, something that’s a given for the Oilers but perhaps a point of worry for the McDavid camp. On Tuesday night’s Insider Trading, TSN and ESPN insider Pierre Lebrun floated the idea that the potential lockout in 2020 or 2022 could affect the player agent’s willingness to sign through that. He followed that up on Wednesday morning on TSN radio in Vancouver, pointing to the past CBA’s effects on player contracts. In 2005, there was a 24% salary rollback to all players; in 2013 they added cap recapture penalties to so-called “cheat deals” like Shea Weber’s. While Lebrun isn’t saying McDavid doesn’t want to sign an eight-year extension in Edmonton, he does point out the possibility of a four-year deal because “there’s some concern that when the CBA ends, maybe they need to protect themselves because the rules may change on existing contracts.”
Numbers-wise, McDavid is a very likely candidate to become the highest-paid player in the NHL. Chris Johnston discussed McDavid on Tuesday night’s Sportsnet Hockey Central, opining that he “doesn’t see any” situation where McDavid doesn’t become the highest-paid player in the NHL. Currently, Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s $10.5MM cap hits are the highest in the NHL. Kings captain Anze Kopitar is the only other player making $10MM or more.
Of course, the Oilers could luck out if McDavid is as superstitious as the previous “next one” Sidney Crosby. Following his standard entry-level contract, Crosby has signed two separate contracts with an AAV of $8.7MM, which of course is the same as his number. Getting McDavid signed at under $10MM per season would be a major win for the Oilers and allow them to build a stronger team around him. Both sides can look no further than the Blackhawks struggles to keep their team together with Toews and Kane accounting for a combined $21MM against the cap.
Including LTIR-relief from former captain Andrew Ference (career-ending hip surgery), the Oilers are around $5MM below the cap. Things will change in the summer, when Leon Draisaitl is an RFA. Look for depth defenseman Mark Fayne to bought out or traded with salary retained to clear most of his $3.625MM cap hit, and perhaps a trade involving a bigger salaried player. McDavid and Darnell Nurse finish their entry-level contracts in 2018, and then Jesse Puljujärvi in 2019 (presuming he stays in the NHL this year and doesn’t slide.
While negotiations cannot begin until July, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and his management team are already having internal discussions about the contract, and so are McDavid’s agents, Jeff Jackson and Bobby Orr. Expect a similar timeline to fellow exceptional status recipient and first-overall pick Aaron Ekblad signing his extension with Florida; the two sides agreed in principle to a new deal early in the morning of July 1st.
Johnston was dead-on when he called extending McDavid the “biggest decision the Oilers are going to have for the next decade.”